Telling it like it is

Hear from our young people

It's important that young people have the opportunity to share their thoughts, ideas and opinions about their care and the issues that matter to them.   

At the Trust we are all about creating opportunities for children and young people to have their voices heard whether they live in care or at home. You can find out more about these opportunities in the latest blogs from our people.

Becci's Story

Becci is one of  our first Trust's Young Advisors and was awarded The Fostering Network's Oustanding Achievement Award in 2018. Here is Becci's letter to her younger self. 

Some words of advice to my younger self! 

Note to self when a social work assistant with blonde hair called Tracey knocks on your door, just let her in and whatever you do, do not give her attitude!

You’ve recently been approached by a lady called Tracey (bet you did not think you would see her again) about joining the children in care council. You do not realise it yet, but she will soon become a very influential part of your life. You have agreed to attend the children in care council even though you do not want to, you feel very nervous and out of your comfort zone but I reassure you that this will come to be one of the best decisions that you will have ever made!

You came to children in care council as a very shy and timid young person and slowly your confidence is growing. You love working on different issues to make not only your own life but the lives’ of other young people care better – such as challenging the jargon social workers use, those annoying words like ‘contact’, ‘CIN’ and ‘LAC’ that make you feel like you stand out even more as a ‘kid in care’- plus you don’t always know what they are about.

Keep at it, the hard work and determination will soon pay off. At the moment the younger ones seem so annoying because you are a teenager, who is sooo grown up! You won’t believe me if I told you that you will make lifelong bonds with these people, you all become a little family.

Word of advice - when Tracey asks you to come and speak to the Chief Executive of the Trust, Paul to become a Young Advisor, that is when you will know you have proven yourself and that is when your journey will start.

You will start to get opportunities to speak at large Trust events, they will scare the living daylights out of you, trust me you will get a rash and have palpitations the lot but it will not kill you! Just do it as they say ‘life is too short’ and all that. The more you do it the easier it gets, do as much as you can, PUSH YOURSELF! Because you can do it, you soon become so good at speaking your confidence grows and grows.

Opportunities are flying left right and centre and take them all. That shy timid girl will soon disappear, before you know it you will be speaking at staff conferences, speaking in front of hundreds of people without even flinching. You will have the opportunity to work with other young people in similar circumstances, the chance to visit London. You will find that people with big fancy titles – Ministers, Chief Social Worker, Directors of Children’s Services from across the country - are asking you, yes little old you, for your time and advice on how to make things better for other children in care.

You love what you are doing, so grab it with both hands. Show them what Becci Coole is made of. You get to do so many things. Those things you hated about living in a residential unit you get to change them; you get to turn them into homes. You get to sit on interview panels for social workers and even the Chair of the Trust Board and trust me your opinion really is listened too.

You will go on to do amazing things and other young people will look up to you! Your confidence, your sense of pride and your knowledge will surprise you. You will soon find yourself chatting to Paul, as you often do, joking about an idea you’ve got. Before you know it you are writing that idea up into a business plan and you soon find yourself in front of the Trust board (the people who make the big decision) pitching to them your idea to roll out training across the country to help adults understand what it is like to be a kid in care. They love your idea; what’s more you end up with a bursary named after you – Becci’s Bursary – and the really cool bit you get to use it to help other care leavers follow their dreams. Yes, you really do this!

You even go on to start a social work degree! Who would have known a young girl from Balby who left school with 3 GCSE’s, had nothing really going for her would do so much.

The Trust will become your family and you will to accept and turn your negative experience of home life into a positive by making it better for other young people.

So last note, no matter what anyone says you will do amazing!

Fanso's Story

Fanso is one of the Trust's first Young Advisors and is also a Modern Apprentice with the Participation team at the Trust. Here is Fanso's letter to his younger self. 

Some words of advice to my younger self! 

I know you may feel like you're alone and I don't expect you to understand but the future holds something much greater for you. Yes, it may be scary. You think "what if things only get worse and never change for the better?"

It's not easy and you know it but someone who loved you the most invested in you, taught you how to be respectful, taught you to appreciate, have faith and recognise the things that may seem small and to appreciate those who care for you.

Let your faith and your trust in God lead and guide you into brighter days. You will get through these hard times and you'll go on to do some amazing work such as helping other young people and families in a similar situation as yours; though you may feel like you're the only one caged.

Your confidence will grow massively through some of the work that you'll take part in such as:

Interviewing the Chair of the What Works Well Centre - a government initiative to help achieve better outcomes for children, young people and families across the country, by pooling good practice.

- You'll go on to speak at Westminster of what difference you've made in your town by being a Chief Executive’s Young Advisor - a role which helps you to have a voice on behalf of other young people and so help the Trust to shape and adapt- its servcies.

- Meeting up with the Children's Minister and sharing your story and also hearing his story and actually realising that those who go on and do well have not always had a solid and secure past. Not only will you enjoy doing this but you shall also gain a lot of experience and life skills from it all.

Stick to playing football - it will bring joy and good people into your life. You'll move from team to team, play for a semi-professional team; and all the teams you play for will appreciate you as a person and as a team player.

Keep on going to church every Sunday and secure your relationship with God and keep on believing that he’s got nothing but a good purpose for your future.

The future is going to reward you with nothing but opportunities and help you grow and discover a lot about yourself that was buried by fear. One example of something that is going to help you through loneliness and hard times is music. You will go on to be a song writer and artist, something you never ever imagined. You will go on to do paid shows and to being on stage and performing in universities, schools and various town/cities. You will develop your skills to go on to write poems and to become a motivational speaker/advisor.

Discovering these skills or talents will help you not only to depend on football but will also teach you that there is so much more you could do with your future and also that you could be someone great in life if you put your mind and efforts into it.

There will be a Doncaster Children’s Trust Children In Care Council (a forum for children to get their voices heard) Christmas gathering and you will meet new people and a kind girl by the name Chloe Green is going to make you feel so welcome.

A girl called Becci Coole is going to say to you: “You don’t speak much do you?” but forgive her as she does not know that you have got a language barrier and you don’t yet know that she is going to play a big role in your life.

You will also meet a lovely lady called Tracey Cusack (Trust Participation, Advocacy and Independent Visitors Lead). She is going to do her best to 'mother you' in the right directions, bring you closer to the Doncaster Children’s Services Trust so you have a better relationship with all the people who are helping you. She is going to create great opportunities for you, such as becoming a Chief Executive’s Young Advisor, which will build your confidence massively, make you realise that you may be special, and even help you secure an apprenticeship in the Participation team at the Trust. Through this you will help other children and young people share their voices to help the Trust shape the services it delivers.

Young Advisors head to Romania 

In 2019, three of our Trust Young Advisors volunteered at a day centre for homeless children in Romania. Here is their story:

Young people from Doncaster Children’s Service Trust are heading to Romania to volunteer in a day centre for homeless children.

The Chief Executive’s Young Advisors from the Trust will be embarking on a five day experience as they join the charity Vis de Copil, which has been helping homeless children in Romania for over 18 years.

The group of five, consisting staff and young people, are set to go in late August and will be helping children of all ages to access what most people would consider basic necessities of life, such as hot meals, showers and fresh clothes, as well as working to provide basic education.

Angela Emerton, Advocacy Support Worker with the Trust and trip organiser, commented: “It is important for the Young Advisors to come out of their comfort zones to see the reality of how some people have to live. It will mean so much to them all to be able to do the wonderful work we are going to do whilst in Romania and to be able to make a real difference to the lives of these children.

“The advisors have worked hard to raise funds of £316.40 through staff collections for the charity which will be used to help provide fresh food for the children, as well as school equipment and clothes.”

The charity, Vis de Copil, relies solely on donations to provide the sanctuary for the children who would otherwise have no place of safety.

Commenting on the experience, one of the Young Advisors, Amy said: “I find it rewarding to help others and give them the emotional support they will need. I think experiencing and seeing how the Romanian children live will allow us all to realise how grateful we should be for the smallest things in life. If we go out there and make even a slight difference, I will be beyond words.”

Doncaster Children’s Service Trust prides itself on its commitment to child wellbeing, with a heavy focus around the child’s voice.

Chief Executive of the Trust, Paul Moffat said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for our Young Advisors. They are showing commitment and dedication to these children, devoting their summer to put the vision and values of the Trust into practice. I am very proud of all who are taking part. They are a credit to the Trust.”

Jordan and Kanisha's SCIE blog

Throughout the national lockdown, our Trust Young Advisors shared their lived experiences with the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE). Here is their story:

We are Kanisha and Jordan. We are a two of the Young Advisors at Doncaster Children’s Services Trust. As young people with care experience, we help other young people living in care to have their voices heard.

We wanted to share with you our experiences of life in lockdown and how we are providing support for young people across Doncaster.

The thought of lockdown and not going into work didn’t sound that bad at first. We thought it sounded easy - what’s so bad with being at home all day. Reality hit within a matter of days when we realised it wasn’t as easy as it first sounded. We would typically be in the office five days a week, and when not at work, we would be spending time with friends and family.

As young people, we spend a lot of our time on social media and chatting with friends on face time. However, this being the only way we could talk to our mates soon became tough. We soon started to feel like our worlds had got smaller. 

Several weeks into lockdown, we are sort of getting use to it. It still feels odd at times, but we’ve managed to find ways to keep ourselves busy.

Embracing the changes, since the lockdown began, we have all been making it a priority to stay in touch with our young people. We’ve been ringing all the Children in Care Council members to make sure they are ok and to see what they have been up to. It is great to chat with them, and it gives them the opportunity to raise any issues/concerns they may have. Now, this isn’t the same as us all meeting together for some pizza but it is working, and the chats we are having are helping us to build relationships.

We’ve embraced Microsoft Teams; it has made it easier to keep in touch with colleagues and see into their homes!  It is a strange and challenging time for everyone at the moment, not just our young people but our colleagues too; and this shared experience is helping us to feel more connected. 

All the Young Advisors have been staying in touch with each other through regular phone chats. We have built stronger relationships with one another due to this. We all like to make sure we are all doing ok and to hear what each other have been up to.

Together we have been in the process of creating our Young Advisors ‘Hear Me’ digital newsletter for all our young people. This month’s edition includes coping strategies for anxieties around Covid-19, useful materials, activities, competitions, and many stories on the great things we have been involved with over the past few months. This is just a little token we can give back to remind our young people we are here for them. It has been a strange time for us all.

Well, that brings us to the end of our update. Take care of yourselves, and we hope you are staying safe!

Caitlin is going to Uni

Caitlin is one of the Trust's first Young Advisors. Here is her story:

This week I received some brilliant news that I wanted to share with you all. In September I will be on my way to Sheffield Hallam University to study Psychology if Covid isn't as bad *fingers crossed*.

I found out this news just the other day on my 18th birthday and when I read the email I couldn't believe what I was reading! I read the offer letter again and again and then as I was in my room on my own I did a little boogie before I went down stairs to tell my carers.

I am really excited about going to University and meeting new people who have similar interests to me, after a year of being in and out of lockdown it will be great to get to know some new people in a different environment.

I am also really looking forward to learning more out about the course I will be doing. I found out about the course through a teacher (who also did psychology in university) who I spoke to as I was struggling to know what I wanted to do. She was very helpful and recommended what she thought would be the best route.

The decisions was up to me but I became more intrigued in going to university after the summer school with the university of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam university that Tracey had booked me on, as then I knew a bit more about it. Before summer school I thought about it but thought university was just for people who achieved A's and A*'s which put me off as it made me think I wasn't capable of getting there. Then a little wise owl (Tracey Cusack, Participation, Advocacy and IV Manager) told me that anyone could go.

There have been many people who have helped me achieve my goal to get to university and I really appreciate everyone's help and I would like to thank everyone for the commitment they made to me and sticking with me as I know I can be stubborn at times.

I am most excited to find out where university will take me and whether or not it will take me to my dream. Ending on a positive I would like to give some advice for other young people looking at the road to uni which is - don't be afraid, take a look into any course that you're interested in and see if it's for you. There's no harm in looking and if I can get into university then so can you!

Leuvan's Blog: Digital Poverty

Leuvan is one of the Trust Young Advisors, who has been working a member of the National House Project to raise awareness to digital poverty for care leavers. Here is his story:

As a care leaver, I have been a member of the National House Project, Doncaster, being a member of this group has helped me and supported me greatly. They have been able to assist me in learning new life skills and different ways of living. Essential skills have been given to me which I otherwise would not have received as a care leaver. During the national lockdown due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, it has been okay. This is because as a key worker, nothing much has changed for me. I have not had to isolate or be in “lockdown” as I was still leaving for work every day. The only thing that has changed for myself is the way in which I am at home, as a care leave in semi-independent living, I have had to adapt to the differences in the communal areas, the personal protective equipment required in the house, and the way in which members of staff act on a day-to-day basis. 

I feel that due to this pandemic, having access to mobile phones and the internet has been essential as it has allowed me to connect with others and stay in contact with my support networks, not only this but due to the pandemic, job interviews are now online, and to access applications you need to have a digital device, this is why digital poverty is so important.

As a member of the National House Project, I decided to join the Care Leavers National Movement, which has a cause regarding digital poverty. This means a lot to me and I feel that it is essential that more and more people know about the challenges which care leavers face. The House Project has helped me throughout this pandemic and has allowed me to seek help with digital poverty. They have caused many things to change for me – for the better! They are great people and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.

Michelle's Inspiration for Care Leavers

Michelle has been a Care Leaver for 5 years and always wanted to be an Art Teacher, this is the story on how she achieved her dream:

When I was placed into care, I wasn’t doing well academically in school. I was failing every subject and I felt I had no hope in passing any of my GCSE’S. I wanted to get into sixth form, and was told constantly by people around me that I wouldn’t be able to do it with my current performance.

However, being the resilient, stubborn individual that I am I decided to prove them wrong, I had the entirety of Year 11 (equivalent of 10 months) to change my failing grades to passing ones so my plan was just this!

With the help, love and support of my foster carers, I now had a stable home and the support system of them cheering me on which really helped me to be able to achieve that. Although it was a lot of hard work, I did manage to do it - woohoo!  I went from U’S and E’s to C’S and A*’s which was such a huge change for me. These grades got me into sixth form, and the grades I received in sixth form got me into University.

At university I studied a Bachelor Honours degree at the University of Lincoln in Fine Art and achieved an upper second class degree. Recently I have just finished my Master’s degree in Fine Art at the same University and have started a PGCE Teaching Degree at one of the top 10 teaching Universities in the UK.

Every step along the way, I was told that I wouldn’t be able to do it but this just encouraged me to work harder and prove people wrong. The prospect of a young person of the care system going to University is very rare. There are stereotypes and stigmas surrounding these young people that often lead them to believe that they won’t be successful in life. For me, I didn’t just want to prove people wrong, but I also wanted to prove to other young people in the care system that if I can do it, so can they.

It certainly hasn’t been easy but in the long run it has been satisfying proving those who told me I couldn’t do it, that I could. So if I can do all of that from having nothing to begin with, so can other young people.

People will say often that I’m a successful individual, but I am only successful because I am happy in what I am doing in life and that’s what success really boils down to - happiness.

I hope young people and current care leavers read this and feel inspired by my achievements. Remembering it’s never too late to chase your dreams. Look at me, I am only one step away from mine.

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